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Neona Leads Her way to SA Poonawalla Multi-Million Glory

By Mahendra Mallya | 23 Sep 2012 | PUNE

Mr. Jaydev M Mody leading Neona (A Sandesh Up), winner of The S A Poonawalla Multi-Million (Gr.2)

A fairly large crowd thronged the Pune racecourse as much to witness the SA Poonawalla Multi Million (Gr2) as to take a crack of driving back in the Car that was on offer. The Pune racecourse showcased a lovely assort of fashionable wardrobe, people dressed to the hat! Glamour, fashion and the rough action on the turf make a heady mix and a few breathtaking sights and performances on both sides of the fence is what made the Poonawalla day one of the most enjoyable days of the season.

Neona (Ace – Victory And Gold) won the plum event and became an instant star. Her performance was superlative and she made, what looked an open race, her own right from the start. That she was one of the prime contenders only added to the decibels to the colourful venue.

Neona slipped into the lead as the gates flung open and settled to gallop at a steady pace. Without undue hurrying, she sailed ahead with Blue Ace and Anahi close behind. A longish gap of over four-lengths saw Defining Moment heading the second bunch of contenders with Commander close behind. Bizarro, Halle and Sergeant Major were further back with Red Baron at the tail end of the field.

Regardless of the goings-on behind, Neona stayed focused on the target and galloped devouring ground with majestic strides as they turned the arc for the final run. Into the straight, Neona quickened further and stole a march. Jockey A Sandesh, who was parched for victories for a while now, couldn’t bother about this long lull and made a dash for glory. Neona obliged like a true miler, shooting towards the winning post at a good clip, showing little signs of fatigue or stress. Commander was the lone challenger as the rest looked beat far too early. Even when Commander started to bridge the handy gap, Neona kept her momentum going and never looked in danger. To his credit, Commander covered a lot of ground and did extremely well to end on the haunches of Neona. Blue Ace, who was the closet to Neona until the final turn, ended a far away third, just managing to stick his neck ahead of Halle.

An alarming trend was that none of the other seven rose to the occasion. Bizarro was certainly under par. His was a shadow of his last run. He never looked comfortable and this run is best ignored. His last victory was too simply good and this may just have been a bad day at office. Blue Ace too failed to give a good account of himself but, at least he was keeping the interest alive for the majority of the race. He simply didn’t come on in the straight. Mile could be a furlong too much is what I read from this run, I could be wrong, but that’s the feel I deduced from this outing. Red Baron carried the top weight and that, on the terms of this race, perhaps curtailed his chances. Sergeant Major, who too had come into this race with a stylish win, also suffered and ended last. He was running first time after being gelded and that might explain his poor run. Commander’s run was a revelation. He did well within himself and at least provided a decent fight if I can call it that. He will improve further for sure and could pick up a race. Neona was outstanding and it will be interesting to see what the connections decide on her long term assignment. The Indian 1000 Guineas perhaps?

At the presentation podium, Zavaray Poonawalla’s son Mr Yohan Poonawalla, did the presentation honours presenting the trophy to owners Mr Jaydev Mody and Mr & Mrs FH Tapia. Bezan Chinoy collected the trainer’s salver while jockey Sandesh looked a relived lad for scoring after a prolonged gap. Bezan had last won this race in 1998 with Adams Pleasure which was partnered by jockey Aslam Khader.  

The added attraction of the day that preceded the big one, was the Villoo C Poonawalla Gold Trophy for maiden three-year-olds. Scarlet Regent (Emerald Cat – Doomna) owned by Dr MAM Ramaswamy and bred at the Capricorn Stud Farm, carved out his maiden victory to claim the attractive trophy. He was quick out of the gates and settled behind Sheer Romance who cut a nippy pace. Gates of Heaven, Papakura and Alkazi were in close attendance with Bunga Bunga on the outside.

Scarlet Regent quickened well soon on turning for home while Sheer Romance could not improve after leading them in. Gates of Heaven made a charge to challenge Scarlet Regent. Alkazi was also preparing for a good final assault. The trio was speeding towards the winning post and the first two were clear of Alkazi. Scarlet Regent held on to the slight upper hand he had through the straight and annulled a good effort from Gates of Heaven. Alkazi gained slightly in the final run to end close behind the two.  Papkura completed the frame. Of the beaten lot, Indiscreet ran on from the rear and ended sixth beating a bunch despite going considerably wide at the turn.

Debutante Bunga Bunga was the firm favourite to win this one but he ended up disappointing his large number of followers. He ran green and was all at sea, implying that he was overawed, which affected his performance. His prep work was impressive and his paddock looks were pleasing too and this urges me to believe that this run was well below par and he would do well with the benefit of this run.

The Poonawalla Day had its share of glitter and excitement. Dr Cyrus Poonawalla presented the trophy which was received by trainer Karthik on behalf of Dr MAM Ramaswamy. The main attraction of winning a car though, remained unachieved. One had to nominate the correct order of the top four placing in the SA Poonawallla Multi Million and none from the 1000s of forms received had cracked the code. There were 18 who nominated the first three positions correctly. Bizarro’s ouster from the frame would have been the major cause for this along with rank outsider Halle claiming a spot in the frame. However, the consolation prizes of an LED TV and a Laptop were given to two lucky winners selected by a draw.